Building a Website Solo: Lessons in Code, Design, & Content

Building a website solo is far more than a few lines of code. I have learned design and writing are critical skills, but neither is my strong suit. AI tools are like a helping hand though, especially for editing my writing. Overall, building and maintaining this site is a challenge, but it's expanded my appreciation of the skills of peers in design and writing roles.

Respecting Website Complexity

For decades, I've practiced the complex art of website creation. I began with Notepad, simple HTML, and FTP uploads. As the industry and technology evolved, this site was a great place to experiment with the new tools, frameworks, and concepts.

Because of this, the site has never really settled and while I kept introducing new content management tools, migrating the few things I wrote wasn't a priority so the site was closer to a whiteboard than a permanent record.

What has been clear is that building a full website - code, design, and content - is more than a full-time job when working solo. A fast site is nice, but useless if there's nothing there to read. At the same time, compelling visuals or valuable content takes work to create and deploy.

Core Skills to Build a Website by Yourself

The three key disciplines in website development are coding, design, and writing. Each requires focus and experience to do well.

Coding and the technology of the web is my strength. My professional duties at work reinforces these skills, daily. Design and writing, though, are things I can do with some reasonable ability for an amateur site, but I am far from expert on these.

But wait! There's one more skill that I realized is needed. Tools like Scrum help keep teams aligned and working towards delivering beneficial change. A one-person "team" doesn't need Scrum or waterfall, but a checklist isn't enough. An organizational skill is also needed, to help group similar work and also prioritize what is more important.

To summarize: creating a site, solo, means doing the coding, design, writing, and prioritizing the work so that the site gets better every day, week, month, and year.

And to do this? I am heavily leaning on some tools that let me automate or iterate more quickly or with higher quality.

A "Solo Creator" Tech Stack

Here's a breakdown of the tools I'm using to make site & content creation easier:


I'm reasonably fluent in the tech stack I'm using. That's the reason I picked it. My dev tools are focused on getting code written quickly and deployed quickly. They include:

The CoPilot is the one item that I'm still unsure is contributing. It's possible I'm using it wrong. it's also possible that my needs don't align well with CoPilot so it's just not helpful.


Finding time to write is my key bottleneck. Once I have something written, I need a copy editor to help improve what I've written.

I'm using Obsidian for organizing what I write because it syncs across my devices (with a paid subscription), it's easy to use, it uses Markdown so it's somewhat portable (for web content), and it has plugins that add nice features to the base.

For copy-editing, I'm using....Gemini AI from Google. Importantly, I'm using it to make suggestions about how to improve my drafts. From there, I make new edits and then run the cycle again.

It usually takes around four drafts before the advice is mostly nonsense. It also, at times, makes suggestions that are just kind of absurd. But overall, it takes direction reasonably well and it's an affordable and reasonable editor, given the small size of my site.


I'm winging it!

Well, I'm using TailwindCSS templates and lots and lots of "best homepage designs 2024" style searches to knit something together.

I think the design will always be the weakest element, as it's both my weakest experiential area and it's very difficult to find talented people who are affordable for what is a small, self-funded project.

So. Templates it is!

The Bottom Line

Building this website, solo, has significantly deepened my respect for the professionals I work with and have worked with in my career. Specialized expertise in design, writing and project management are all essential for building an exceptional website.

Additionally, I've started to look for tools that bring as much benefit as the frameworks I use to code the site. AI-powered tools, used carefully, are providing me with help on tasks like copyediting, both improving the quality of my writing and also teaching me along the way (that is unexpected!).

While challenging, I'm glad I'm working on building the site in a comprehensive way as it's making me think more deeply about my relationships with peers in other parts of my work and in the industry.